Hilda Situ still trembles when she talks about the two times she was robbed at gunpoint – first in front of her store and then outside her house.
“I was cowering in fear,” Situ said, her arms in a brace position to demonstrate what happened. “I just screamed. I didn’t dare move.”
Situ, a cashier at the Jade City boutique in south Sacramento, criticized police for the continued surge in crime targeting Asian Americans in the area that began last fall. From her store in the Shun Fat Supermarket plaza on 65th Street, Situ said she sees Asian victims being robbed in the parking lot a few times a week in broad daylight.
I was lucky he didn’t shoot me.
Hilda Situ,who said she was robbed last month as she exited the garage at her south Sacramento home
“It only lasts a few seconds. There will be a scream and the suspect is gone,” said Situ, adding that she didn’t report the incidents because they happened too quickly.
Last year, Situ herself was a victim as she left the boutique that sells jewelry, lottery tickets and sundries. At least one man ordered her to surrender a large pouch with several thousand dollars in cash from the store, said Situ, who spoke in Mandarin to a Sacramento Bee reporter.
Months after Sacramento city and police officials announced a crackdown against suspects targeting Asians that resulted in a temporary reprieve, community members say they are again seeing more robberies and assaults.
Officially, the city saw 6 robberies with Asian victims in January, 15 in February and 2 in March, according to statistics from the Sacramento Police Department. During the peak of the crime wave, there were about 15 robberies a month, according to Officer Matthew McPhail, police spokesman.
If you never call, it’s the same as it never happened.
Sacramento Police Department spokesman Matthew McPhail, who urged residents to report incidents to authorities
“It’s fair to say we are down relative to the peak, when we were swinging our full effort,” McPhail said. “But obviously any time somebody is being victimized is not a desirable outcome.”
Violent crime in council District 6, which covers southeast Sacramento, jumped by more than 25 percent from 2015 to 2016, driven by the sharp increases in robberies and aggravated assaults in the predominately Asian neighborhoods.
The city’s statistics, however, do not offer the complete picture since many in the community do not report crimes to authorities. Some of them are afraid of retribution, while others struggle to communicate in English.
Situ said she was robbed last month as she exited the garage at her south Sacramento home. The perpetrator allegedly demanded her purse, which contained $500 in cash, credit cards and her driver’s license.
“No one saw it, so there’s no point of reporting it to police,” Situ said. “I was lucky he didn’t shoot me.”
Wei Xin Yang, a community activist and president of the newly formed Asian American Public Safety Service Center, said there has been a noticeable uptick in crime. The nonprofit continues to dispatch about 25 volunteers on nightly patrols to the troubled neighborhoods.
“As long as people are seeking help, we will help them,” Yang said, noting that his patrols respond to roughly six incidents each night.
Residents use the Chinese social media app, WeChat, to call for help. The volunteers, some of them armed, are able to stop about 70 percent of the robberies, due to the fast response time, Yang said. The vigilantes honk horns and flash headlights, which usually sends the criminals fleeing.
Yang’s nonprofit officially launched last month with a grand banquet that attracted hundreds of supporters. Yang said the Asian community is intent on warding off the crime for good. He sees an increase in recruits for the volunteer patrol as a testament to that commitment.
Scott Song, vice president of the group, said they will soon ask an instructor with the National Rifle Association to train volunteers on the proper use of firearms while on patrol. The vigilante activity has been criticized by Sacramento police. Leaders of the patrols have repeatedly defended their activities, citing the lack of officer manpower.
“We are partners with the police,” Yang said.
Song said the nonprofit may solicit donations from the public to purchase surveillance equipment for the police department. ShotSpotter microphones that detect gunshots and other high tech gear have helped stem crime in areas like North Sacramento.
Police spokesman McPhail urged residents to report incidents to authorities because that data can determine how enforcement resources are distributed.
“If you never call, it’s the same as it never happened,” he said.